Lucinda Riley, who died of cancer at the age of 56, was seen on television in the 1980s as the runaway teenage daughter of one of the traveling masons in the hit comedy drama Auf Wiedersehen, Pet before quit comedy to become an author of historical novels and fiction.
The course of her life changed when she suffered from glandular fever after contracting the Epstein-Barr virus. Bedridden at the age of 24, she began writing her first novel, Lovers and Players (1992), an account of the lives of three women intertwined against a backdrop of West End and Hollywood.
A number of books followed, featuring the dramas of actors, singers, models and ballet dancers, but her greatest success was the Seven Sisters series, where she combined her characters with her fascination with always for history. The inspiration for these international bestsellers, with sales of 20 million, came as she gazed across the Norfolk night sky at the Pleiades cluster in 2012. The Seven Books, based on the legends surrounding the cluster , follow six of the adopted Aplièse sisters as they travel the globe in search of their roots.
“I wanted to celebrate the accomplishments of women,” Riley said, “especially in the past, where so often their contribution to making our world what it is today has been overshadowed by the more frequently documented accomplishments of men. “
The Seven Sisters (2014), a story taking Maia D’Aplièse from Lake Geneva to Rio de Janeiro, was followed by The Storm Sister (2015), embracing historical Norwegian figures such as Edvard Grieg and Henrik Ibsen. Then – with sets ranging from the Beatrix Potter-era Lake District, Edwardian society of London and the Scottish Highlands, to Thailand, Australia, Spain, South America, New York and Kenya – came The Shadow Sister (2016), The Pearl Sister (2017), The Sister of the Moon (2018) and The Sister of the Sun (2019).
The Missing Sister, the last book in the series, published in May this year, follows the sextet in search of another girl adopted by the wealthy Pa Salt, whose death and burial at sea sparked their quest for solve the mystery of its adoption. girls from all over the globe.
This enigmatic figure was in part inspired by Riley’s own father, Donald Edmonds, director of textile maker Courtaulds, whose work took him on frequent trips abroad. “He made a mysterious figure and I, my mother and my sister really didn’t know what he was doing when he was away,” she recalls. “We would look forward to his return, always with a gift from another exotic country.”
Lucinda was born in Lisburn, County Down, and spent her early years in the nearby village of Drumbeg. Her mother, Jane (née Cottham) and her great-aunt had been professional actresses, her grandmother was an opera singer and her great-uncle was the head lighting designer at the Royal Opera House.
When Lucinda was five, her father moved to Courtaulds in Derby, so the family left Northern Ireland to live in Leicester. Six years later, she appeared on stage as one of Von Trapp’s children in a production of The Sound of Music (1976), staged by the city’s Rotary club at De Montfort Hall.
She performed at the Little Theater with the Leicester Drama Society before starting ballet and theater studies at the Italy Conti Academy of Theater Arts in London at age 14. After being spotted in a ballet class by a television director, she was cast for the role of Dora, one of the Bastable children, in a 1982 BBC serialization of E Nesbit’s children’s novel The Researchers’ Story. of treasure.
Then came a 1983 episode of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet as Tracy, daughter of Brian “Bomber” Busbridge, who was played by actor-wrestler Pat Roach. Her character was seen arriving in Germany after leaving her home in Bristol as he returned there to search for her upon learning of her disappearance. “I learned to drink doing this show,” she later said. “That’s all they seemed to do. I was only one of the two women and the others were all men. It was fantastic. I had a great time doing it.
She gained new theatrical experience as Mary, the young orphan sent to live with her uncle, in a theatrical version of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel The Secret Garden in King’s Head, Islington (1987). She made another brief appearance on screen, as Emma, alongside Sheila Hancock, in a 1989 adaptation of Mary Wesley’s novel Jumping the Queue, before flying to Hollywood for a test. screenshots for a role in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. She hated the experience intensely, remembering, “When I got home I cried and said I never wanted to go back again.”
Switching to writing, still under the name Lucinda Edmonds, she followed Lovers and Players with novels such as Hidden Beauty (1993), Enchanted (1994), Losing You (1997) and Playing with Fire (1998). Her 1988 marriage to actor Owen Whittaker, whom she met while filming a commercial, ended in divorce. In 2000, she married Stephen Riley, who had spearheaded a management buyout of the company that became Denby Pottery, and took a 10-year hiatus from writing to raise their children.
Then, as Lucinda Riley, her career as an author took off. Alongside the Seven Sisters series, she wrote such novels as Hothouse Flower (2010, also titled The Orchid House), The Girl on the Cliff (2011), The Midnight Rose (2013), The Angel Tree (2014) and The Butterfly Room (2019). Its total worldwide sales were 33 million.
Riley is survived by Stephen, their two children, Leonora and Kit, the two children from her first marriage, Harry and Bella, and three stepchildren, Olivia, William and Max, as well as her mother and sister, Georgia.